NYT: Homeland Security Department Is Accused of Credit Card Misuse
Flat-bottomed rescue boats at double the retail price, $68,500 worth of unused dog booties, hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of computers that somehow disappeared and a $227 beer brewing kit.
These are just a few of the questionable purchases that Congressional auditors have found by digging through half a year of credit card records from the Homeland Security Department, including records for the months immediately after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita last year.
The audit, by the Government Accountability Office, which is due to be released Wednesday, concluded that the credit card misuse could probably have been avoided had the department completed a long-planned rulebook for its more than 9,000 employees who spent $420 million last year using government-issued credit cards.
Instead, “due to a lack of leadership” at the department, the draft manual has never been finished, creating accounting weaknesses that “leave D.H.S. highly vulnerable to fraudulent, improper and abusive activity,” the audit says.
The result is that in the five months examined, the investigators found that 45 percent of purchases [$190 million] did not have appropriate preauthorization by supervisors and that 63 percent did not include documentation stating whether the goods or services had been received. (...)
One employee of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is part of the department, spent $7,790 on a 63-inch plasma monitor, which sat for six months, unused, in its original carton.
Another FEMA employee spent $68,442 on the 2,000 dog boots, which were intended to protect the paws of search dogs on rescue operations; the boots ended up in a FEMA warehouse and have not been used.
Auditors also found that officials from Customs and Border Protection spent $2,492 on rain jackets for use at a firing range, even though the firing range is usually closed when it rains. And Secret Service officers spent $7,000 on iPods, which the agency explained were intended to serve as data storage devices, an explanation the auditors found unconvincing. ...(more)